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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Genesis

Timaeus 27c-34a  * Greek Fonts


Page 2

And there is still a question to be asked about him: Which of the patterns had the artificer in view when he made the world-the pattern of the unchangeable, or of that which is created? If the world be indeed fair and the artificer good, it is manifest that he must have looked to that which is eternal; but if what cannot be said without blasphemy is true, then to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must have looked to, the eternal; for the world is the fairest of creations and he is the best of causes. And having been created in this way, the world has been framed in the likeness of that which is apprehended by reason and mind and is unchangeable, and must therefore of necessity, if this is admitted, be a copy of something. Now it is all-important that the beginning of everything should be according to nature. And in speaking of the copy and the original we may assume that words are akin to the matter which they describe; when they relate to the lasting and permanent and intelligible, they ought to be lasting and unalterable, and, as far as their nature allows, irrefutable and immovable-nothing less. But when they express only the copy or likeness and not the eternal things themselves, they need only be likely and analogous to the real words. As being is to becoming, so is truth to belief. If then, Socrates, amid the many opinions about the gods and the generation of the universe, we are not able to give notions which are altogether and in every respect exact and consistent with one another, do not be surprised. Enough, if we adduce probabilities as likely as any others; for we must remember that I who am the speaker, and you who are the judges, are only mortal men, and we ought to accept the tale which is probable and enquire no further.

τόδε δ΄ οὖν πάλιν ἐπισκεπτέον περὶ αὐτοῦ͵ [29a] πρὸς πότερον τῶν παραδειγμάτων ὁ τεκταινόμενος αὐτὸν ἀπηργάζετο͵ πότερον πρὸς τὸ κατὰ ταὐτὰ καὶ ὡσαύτως ἔχον ἢ πρὸς τὸ γεγονός. εἰ μὲν δὴ καλός ἐστιν ὅδε ὁ κόσμος ὅ τε δημιουργὸς ἀγαθός͵ δῆλον ὡς πρὸς τὸ ἀίδιον ἔβλεπεν· εἰ δὲ ὃ μηδ΄ εἰπεῖν τινι θέμις͵ πρὸς γεγονός. παντὶ δὴ σαφὲς ὅτι πρὸς τὸ ἀίδιον· ὁ μὲν γὰρ κάλλιστος τῶν γεγονότων͵ ὁ δ΄ ἄριστος τῶν αἰτίων. οὕτω δὴ γεγενημένος πρὸς τὸ λόγῳ καὶ φρονήσει περιληπτὸν καὶ κατὰ ταὐτὰ ἔχον δεδημιούργηται· [29b] τούτων δὲ ὑπαρχόντων αὖ πᾶσα ἀνάγκη τόνδε τὸν κόσμον εἰκόνα τινὸς εἶναι. μέγιστον δὴ παντὸς ἄρξασθαι κατὰ φύσιν ἀρχήν. ὧδε οὖν περί τε εἰκόνος καὶ περὶ τοῦ παραδείγματος αὐτῆς διοριστέον͵ ὡς ἄρα τοὺς λόγους͵ ὧνπέρ εἰσιν ἐξηγηταί͵ τούτων αὐτῶν καὶ συγγενεῖς ὄντας· τοῦ μὲν οὖν μονίμου καὶ βεβαίου καὶ μετὰ νοῦ καταφανοῦς μονίμους καὶ ἀμεταπτώτους - καθ΄ ὅσον οἷόν τε καὶ ἀνελέγκτοις προσήκει λόγοις εἶναι καὶ ἀνικήτοις͵ τούτου δεῖ μηδὲν ἐλλείπειν - [29c] τοὺς δὲ τοῦ πρὸς μὲν ἐκεῖνο ἀπεικασθέντος͵ ὄντος δὲ εἰκόνος εἰκότας ἀνὰ λόγον τε ἐκείνων ὄντας· ὅτιπερ πρὸς γένεσιν οὐσία͵ τοῦτο πρὸς πίστιν ἀλήθεια. ἐὰν οὖν͵ ὦ Σώκρατες͵ πολλὰ πολλῶν πέρι͵ θεῶν καὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς γενέσεως͵ μὴ δυνατοὶ γιγνώμεθα πάντῃ πάντως αὐτοὺς ἑαυτοῖς ὁμολογουμένους λόγους καὶ ἀπηκριβωμένους ἀποδοῦναι͵ μὴ θαυμάσῃς· ἀλλ΄ ἐὰν ἄρα μηδενὸς ἧττον παρεχώμεθα εἰκότας͵ ἀγαπᾶν χρή͵ [29d] μεμνημένους ὡς ὁ λέγων ἐγὼ ὑμεῖς τε οἱ κριταὶ φύσιν ἀνθρωπίνην ἔχομεν͵ ὥστε περὶ τούτων τὸν εἰκότα μῦθον ἀποδεχομένους πρέπει τούτου μηδὲν ἔτι πέρα ζητεῖν.

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